A Guide to the Best Photo Editing Software Based on User-Expertise and Pricing

Updated on June 10, 2020

When you ask, “What is the best photo editing software?”, you are more likely to get one answer- “Adobe Photoshop”. While this answer seems to be so simple and obvious, this is not an appropriate answer to your query. Adobe definitely has some of the best photo editing programs in its portfolio, but there are also other photo editing applications that are equipped with powerful tools and can generate captivating effects, allowing photographers the opportunity to deliver creative photographic outcomes. In this article, we have listed the top photo editing software that can help professional photographers and businesses in giving a professional makeover to photography outcomes.

1. Adobe Photoshop CC 2020:

Photoshop is an immensely powerful photo editing program that operates on a subscription-based model and is noted for its clean, intuitive interface. Photoshop gets updated on a regular basis and can be optimally utilized by professional photo editors to apply masking and layering effects on complex images. Photoshop is a program designed for professionals and so beginners may find the presence of several features that are of no use to them. The program does provide a flyout-animation-based tutorial that shows how different tools can be used, but it does not come equipped with image cataloguing or browsing tools. Notably, many people do not like Photoshop’s subscription-based model. Secondly, if a user wants to open a raw file, it has to go through Adobe Camera Raw first and this is definitely a tiresome process. Photoshop does not support a user’s need to organize photos and he would need another program to perform this task. Photoshop is a great program for illustrators, videographers, designers, and artists, but has limited photography-specific tools. So it may not be useful for you if you are looking for photograph enhancement support. There are cheaper, smarter, and easy-to-use options that you can consider exploring.

2. Adobe Lightroom Classic

Lightroom Classic is a perfect program that you can use with Photoshop. It is particularly noted for its capabilities for cataloguing, mobile synchronization and raw image editing. If you are looking to complete your photo enhancement project, you may consider using Lightroom. The Lightroom Classic version supports regular desktop storage whereas the streamlined Lightroom CC version allows for cloud storage. Lightroom has an extensive library of free presets and with the Classic version, you will be able to apply presets with just one click within a fraction of a second.

3. Affinity Photo 1.8

Affinity Photo 1.8 is quite similar to Photoshop in terms of features; however, it is quite cheaper than Photoshop and is not based on the subscription-model. Just like Photoshop, it is a powerful photo editing program that has no cataloguing tools. You may refer to Affinity photo as an old-school photo editor that comes equipped with powerful retouching, cloning, and healing tools. Additionally, it features an automatic object removal tool and focus-tracking tool and a separate workspace to work on localized image distortion effects.

4. PhaseOne Capture One Pro 20

This photo editing program is pricey, but it comes equipped with some really powerful features to support raw image processing and layer-based modifications. It features excellent tethering tools and an image cataloguing feature that works in the same way as Lightroom’s cataloguing feature. It features customizable tool tabs and allows users to implement all changes in a single work window. With its layers-based fine-tuning system, you will be able to edit the changes that you implement in your work. You are even allowed to edit linear as well as radial gradient masks. The edited versions appear sharper and smoother than the outcomes produced by Lightroom’s tools. This version is particularly noted for its HDR tools and improvised color editing option.

5. DxO Nik Collection 3

The Nik suite has been upgraded with new tools and a new workflow. The suite features three incredibly powerful tools namely, Analog Efex Pro, which is used for producing spectacular dark room effects, Color Efex Pro, which is a collection of filters, and Silver Efex Pro, which is a powerful black-and-white digital plug-in. Apart from these, the Niks Collection features useful tools for HDR merging, dodging and burning, image sharpening, and noise reduction. We should also mention about its Perspective Efex tool, which supports perspective corrections as well as wide-angle lens distortion correction efforts.

6. DxO PhotoLab 3

DxO PhotoLab is the upgraded version of the DxO Optics Pro and it features more advanced photo editing solutions. The new PhotoLibrary window allows you to search through image folders, set up projects, and perform basic filtering activities. The best features of PhotoLab3 are its superior capabilities for automatic lens corrections, raw image processing, and noise reduction. With PhotoLab, you can create high quality image versions. However, you would need to invest in the pricey Elite version to use the PRIME denoise and ClearView Plus feature. Secondly, you have to install the DxO ViewPoint plug-in in order to implement perspective corrections.

7. Luminar 4

Luminar 4 features a number of tools and filters and personalized workspaces. This is a relatively new program in the photo editing domain and has capabilities to support both image organization and editing. With this software, you can professionally carry out layering and masking tasks and create photo montages. You would find its AI Sky Replacement filter and its portrait enhancement tool to be quite useful. Notably, you can use Luminar 4 as a plug-in with Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, and Photoshop CC.

8. Exposure Software Exposure X5

Exposure X5 is a comprehensive photo editing tool that promotes quick non-destructive editing. Featuring an extensive library of presets, Exposure X5 is a powerful browsing and photo editing tool that you can use to produce analog film effects. However, you won’t be allowed to combine images because the tool does not provide image layers. It comes with a neat interface, useful tools, and excellent effects. Importantly, it supports the creation of virtual copies that allow you to review different versions of the same image without the need to create additional files for the same image.

9. ON1 Photo RAW 2020

ON1 Photo RAW 2020 features some really cool effects and allows for non-destructive editing support. The 2020 edition of this photo editing software includes a lot of improvisations including AI match and AI auto adjustment options, new presets, and new weather filters. The program’s mobile app is on its way to be launched. ON1 Photo RAW 2020 comes equipped with an inbuilt, combined cataloguing and browsing module that allows users to easily browse through image folders. Its Edit module consists of four main panels namely, Portrait, Develop, Local, and Effects and its Effects module alone consists of diverse filters that can be used in multiple combinations and permutations. Its non-destructive workflow includes an amazing use of its layering, masking, and compositing tools. This photo editing software has not earned much popularity like its rivals, but photographers should consider exploring its fresh, modern, neat interface. However, its forthcoming ON1 360 cloud service is supposed to be based on the subscription model, which many people might not like.

10. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2020

Adobe Photoshop Elements features a user-friendly interface and is quite affordable than the other Adobe products. It offers limited raw processing abilities and you may find many effects to be crude. Photoshop Elements is a simpler version of Photoshop and it is basically a combination of two programs- Elements Organizer and Elements Editor. These two programs function as standalone programs as well as in combination with each other. With the Organizer, it is possible to browse photos in every folder and to organize photos into virtual albums. Using smart tags, you would be able to automatically identify common subjects and save time. The Organizer tool would allow you to open images in the Editor that features A Quick mode to implement fast effects, an Expert mode that features a wide range of tools, an ELive mode that would give you access to tutorials, and a Guided mode that lists effects walkthroughs. There are not much additions or improvements in the Expert mode, which is why Elements looks a little outdated and no wonder why it is overshadowed by fresh, updated photo editing programs.

If you are a beginner, you may consider trying out different photo editing software to understand the strengths and the loopholes of each. If you do not have any prior experience in handling photo editing tasks or digital photo editors and have a new venture that demands photo editing expertise, you may consider hiring the services of a professional photo editing company that would guarantee high returns on your investment and deliver superior image versions that would address your project-needs.

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    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      4 weeks ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Detailed and useful information. Keep on posting more articles.

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